Remote Identification: The FAA Proposed Rule and Privacy Feb06

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Remote Identification: The FAA Proposed Rule and Privacy

In our first posting of 2020, we covered the FAA’s Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems notice of proposed rulemaking and promised that we would be blogging on the impacts of the proposed new rule. This is the fourth in a series of postings about the significance of the proposed new rule.

As of February 1, there have been over 8,000 comments to the proposed rule—the comment period closes on March 2, 2020. Many comments have focused on privacy and of those, there are two distinct areas of concern.  First is the concern as to the use of the new remote identification information by law enforcement. Second is the broader concern, voiced by hobbyists and other non-industry users, that operator location will become public knowledge.

Understanding this concern, and assessing its legitimacy, requires understanding a part of the proposed rule that is, at best, opaque. As drafted, the rule will require drones, with some exceptions, not only to broadcast remote identification information via radio frequency, but also to connect via the internet (when internet service is available) to a website approved by the FAA—referred to as a “UAS Service Suppler” or “USS.” There are many unanswered privacy-related questions about the USS. Will it be hosted by a private entity?  How will law enforcement access the website?  Will the USS operator distribute information to the public? Will each drone manufacturer host its own separate USS, providing information about its drones only, or will there be a single USS linked to all drones in operation? Who will pay for the USS and will that cost be passed on to those who access the website for compliance or law enforcement purposes? We expect many of these questions to be answered during the rulemaking process.